Managing Color Expectations: Lightening and Blonding

Laurel Nelson | October 3, 2017 | 3:10 PM

Making a brunette blonde can be one of the most damaging processes for a client’s hair. It can also be one of the trickiest. Different levels lift to various shades, including orange. But an experienced colorist knows how to safely lift the darkest hair to the creamiest blonde without permanently damaging strands or ending up with brassy color.

“Making a brunette like J.Lo blonde is no longer done with a single-process bleach,” says Beth Minardi, educator and color director at Samuel Shriqui Salon in Manhattan.

Minardi, who also has her own color and color-care line, Beth Minardi Signature, says she made one shade especially to take level-2 hair to a lightest-brown ash.

“It’s called 7 Ice, and it’s a level 7 with a blue-gray base,” she says. “Put that on level-2 roots an inch and a half into the hair and it comes out light brown with no red.”

From there, Minardi mixes a powder lightener with 20-volume developer into a sour-cream consistency and sections hair, working from the nape to the top of the head using long foils to bleach the hair shaft.

“If your client has super-long hair, she might be there all day,” Minardi says. “This is a color transformation—not a retouch. It’s time and money.”

The client might need more highlighting around the face ora glaze to finish the look.

“My recommendation is to just highlight the hair heavily on day one—all over,” she says. “Then I would have her come back in two weeks, use 7 Ice on the roots and add more highlights. This strategy helps maintain healthy hair.”

To keep the look perfect, Minardi says the client must come in every three to four weeks for a new growth touchup and every eight to 10 weeks for highlights.

“It’s arduous, time-consuming, labor-intensive—and an art,” she says.

But be warned—once you start lightening hair that has been colored dark, it can experience breakage. Minardi says some clients require many appointments to safely achieve the shade of blonde they desire.

“It could take six months and will often lift to a warmer shade than they want, but you must be honest with them about the process.”

Beth Busbee, colorist and owner of Beth Busbee Hair in Venice, California, also advocates for careful highlighting to make a client blonde and keep hair healthy.

“The trend toward healthier, safer products is steadily on the rise,” she says. “Consumers are hungry for this kind of service and will gladly pay more for products that are better for their hair and their health.”

After a thorough consultation, Busbee says determining the shade of blonde depends on the health and condition of the client’s hair. She often uses highlights to blend a guest’s gray and to achieve the perfect shade of blonde.

For toning, Busbee turns to a slightly ash shade to cancel out any unwanted warmth.

“When doing bleach highlights, I tend to start with a lower volume of developer (10 or 15) and remix with a slightly higher volume as I go, so the later sections catch up,” she says. “But this all depends on the amount of hair, the technique being used and the amount of highlights being applied.”

AT-HOME MAINTENANCE: “I recommend my Minardi Nourishing Pre-Wash, Wash and After-Wash (System 3),” Minardi says. “No clarifying or volumizing shampoos—just nourishing and conditioning.”
APPOINTMENTS NEEDED TO ACHIEVE DESIRED RESULT: It depends on the client’s hair—how dark is it? Has it been previously colored? What shade of blonde does she want to achieve? Some clients can achieve blonde in one appointment; others might need many appointments spread over several months.
TIPS ON PRICING: Minardi recommends doubling the price of the most expensive color service on your menu.
FREQUENCY OF VISITS TO MAINTAIN THIS LOOK: Every three to four weeks for new growth and every eight to 10 weeks for highlights.

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